German Shepherds Forum banner

Destructive, Dangerous Separation Anxiety

2347 Views 24 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Riley's Mom
Hi folks,

I'm about at my wit's end and really getting terrified my 15mo old female GSD is going to hurt or kill herself.

We got Nissa when she was 3mos old. She came to live with us and our male GSD. For her first year of life her world was my husband, me, our male GSD and our house and yard.

We know we made mistakes so pointing them out isn't what I'm asking here. We're working on turning the mistakes around. What I need are some answers as to how to fix this and keep her safe.

At this point our male is spending 4 mos with a professional Schutzhund/K9 Police dog trainer. We are at about the half-way point w/that - 2 more mos to go. She's not handling him being gone well at all. At first she was very depressed and we took the opportunity to start getting her to the dog park which at first she was terrified of other dogs but after 3-4 trips there she came around pretty well and now does play w/the other dogs.

When our male was here, she was perfectly happy to be crated when we'd leave the house. Not one single problem w/crating her. The first night our male was gone and I went to work (I work midnights) I crated her like I always would. I came home the next morning to find her standing in the kitchen waiting for me. I thought I'd not closed the crate door tight. When I went to look the door was closed, the crate seemed to be in one piece. Upon closer inspection I found she'd managed to open the latches that hold the sides of the wire crate together and I have no clue how she did this w/o hurting herself or choking herself but she squeeeeeeeeezed through the corner of the crate. A regular Houdini. I was flabbergasted and after that to scared to crate her. Since she seemed fine in the house, I started blocking her in the kitchen and picking up anything I thought she could/would get into that could hurt her.

For a few weeks this worked ok. I gave her a fresh knuckle bone from the meat market and some toys that she'd have to work to get treats out of and she was ok in the kitchen for awhile.

Well, then she started getting into things, counter surfing, I'd find things on the floor that she'd found somewhere and dragged around or chewed up. Enough was enough, I went to the hardware store and got 12 luggage locks for the corners of the wire crate. They fit perfectly so she couldn't get her teeth into them or anything that she'd hurt herself with. Next morning I came home, she'd destroyed the bedding in her crate. Shredded it to smitherines.

Ok, so then following night I figured "if you're gonna rip it up you're not going to have anything to rip up in the crate." I gave her the usual toys, crated her and went to work. Came home this morning and she'd totally destroyed the plastic bottom of the crate. So now I'm afraid to crate her because she could get a foot or a toe caught in the bottom grate thing of the crate.

We felt with our male gone she'd have some adjustment issues but never expected anything like this. I have brought my daughter's dogs over on occasion so that she'd have another dog to play with for a few hours. We go to the dog park occasionally but the dog park here was under water for some time due to flooding. So, our trips there stopped. We can go back now, but during the week most times there's no other dogs there so she doesn't get much of a "work out" if you follow me.

She's always been a "spectator sport" dog. She prefers to watch things like when our male plays "chase the ball" instead of chasing it herself. She's just not into playing and it's not for lack of trying to get her involved in playing. She just prefers not to.

She's EXTREMELY tied to me. My husband is an OTR trucker so he's gone during the week. She's definitely a Momma's girl all the way. We were told this separation from our male would be a good experience for HER to get used to being a dog on her own. It's not working.

I don't know what else I can give you for background or other info that might help you help me keep her safe and quit destroying the things in the house and moving on to the house and contents.

If I could, I'd take her to work with me but that's not an option. I know she doesn't get walked enough. The heat here has been horrendous so I keep her/us in the air conditioning. I have some issues with asthma and severe pain in my feet so some days I cannot walk her either. So, she only gets about 3 walks of 45min or so each a week. I know that's not enough, but I also can't imagine even an hour long walk per day making a difference 8, 10 or 12 hours later when I have to go to work. I would walk her if I could before going to work, however, it's summer and I have a very very bad phobia for bugs so going out in summer weather in the dark is something I can't do. I can't imagine even a 45-60min walk before I go to work is going to keep her happy for 8 hours after that either. I don't think she'd be considered a high energy dog. I tend to think more low to medium unless there's another dog here, then yup she's high energy.

I need to add that getting another dog here is not an option right now. Over the year that we've had two dogs, they destroyed all the grass in the back yard. With our male gone and the fact that our female will not stay outside w/o him this was a good time to try to get some grass growing in our back yard again. So at the moment there is fresh seed, fertilizer and hay covering all of that over the entire yard. This was not cheap. We do not have any other yard for them. Our front yard is pretty much right ON a busy street w/no fence there. Bringing another dog in (like a foster) means they'd destroy all of that in the back yard. We have a number of at least temporary strikes against us, I know, that's why we're out of options.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks for any help you can provide.
See less See more
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
I would consider switching the type of crate to either a plastic airline crate or an aluminum crate. Once dogs learn to get out of crates, it can be hard to keep them in. The collapsible wire crates are probably the easiest to break out of.

In the meantime another option might be to take the plastic pan out and get a stall mat, cut it down to size, and put that in the bottom of the crate. Our dog destroyed his plastic pan once (it's not hard to do) and shredded the carpet underneath. We put a mat in, and those are super heavy, not easy to lift even a corner.

There is always medication also. I had a dog with SA, and she would potty in the house if she got too anxious, tear up carpet, destroyed our front door. And it escalates if you let it. You have to make coming and going no big deal. Does she whine a lot when you leave? Howl? Charge the door? Pant? It really might be just boredom. Without her buddy she has nothing to do. Breaking out of the crate alone does not make for SA, there should be other symptoms. You should try more obedience and mental stimulation. I like feeding out of puzzle balls, so they have to work to eat. It may take a couple of days for them to build up some hunger...but then they really work to get their food and then their mind isn't on where you've gone. I would also crate when you're home but not in the same room. See if that makes any difference.
See less See more
Hi JKlatsky,

What is a stall mat and where do I get one?

Going wasn't ever to much of a big deal especially when she had a bone or whatever to keep her occupied. Coming home is a total 'nother story. The girl is BALLISTIC when I come home. I've NEVER seen a dog this happy to see someone and I've had dogs all my life. She's off the charts to see me after 8 hours. I know this is something I encouraged, too. When she started doing it I was so happy to see her too, that I didn't even think to put a stop to the coming home drama. I really didn't think it was doing any harm (and I still don't understand why we can't show our affection that we're happy to see one another) but apparently it is from what I've been reading. So, I have for the past 2 days now been making a point of ignoring this behavior other than to tell her "down" but I do know that I have to change the coming home behavior on BOTH our parts. Right now this is equally hard on both of us because I loved to come home to "someone" so happy to see me.

What is a puzzle ball and where do I get that, and do you mean to feed them from that every meal or what is the best way to use this? I do have two toys that I give her that I put treats in for her to dig out. A Kong and one other one I forget what it's called.

Thank you for your help.
See less See more
I reinforce all wire crates with cable ties as the fosters can easily shake them apart. The plastic crates they escape easily as the door flexes an all they need to do is bend the two wires that fit into the holes in the plastic sufficiently to pop the door open.
I know that it can be a bit pricy, but have you considered a dog walker...maybe at least until you get your male GSD back from training.
I got my stall mat at Tractor Supply.

You have to cut it down. I used a Box Cutter with a new took awhile and some muscles but it can be done! I got 3 mats out of the one piece.

Yeah. You have to ignore her when you come home. No petting, no talking, no looking until she calms down. All the love you give her is a reward. By loving on her when you get home, you're rewarding her spazzy behavior. When she's calm, you can call her over and go nuts, but only then.

This is a ball I use...

And this is one a friend has that they swear by...
See less See more
Quote: I know this is something I encouraged, too. When she started doing it I was so happy to see her too, that I didn't even think to put a stop to the coming home drama. I really didn't think it was doing any harm (and I still don't understand why we can't show our affection that we're happy to see one another) but apparently it is from what I've been reading.
It's all about making the coming and going no big deal. You can still love each other as much as you want and show all the affection you want---just not in the minutes before you leave, and when you first get home.

Doing so just makes coming and going too emotionally charged for the dog.

If you have a big good-bye party then the dog thinks "wow, mom always gets hyped up before she leaves me, so leaving the house is a big deal."

When you have a big reunion scene upon your return it could be the emotional highlight of the dog's day...and who wouldn't sit around all day in anticipation of it--or of it possibly not happening?

If you can change the coming and going to the LOWEST-key parts of the day they will fade into the background. If nothing ever happens when you come and go, then these events aren't worth fretting over.

This doesn't have to be a prolonged witholding of affection. But it must be until the dog calms HERSELF. That's the skill she's missing right now--the ability to self-calm. So when you get home, she's going to be hyper-excited to see you. "Yay! You're finally home!! I love you love you love you!!!" Let her get all that out if she needs to. But don't feed it. Ignore it. Don't say "down." Don't even look at her. She will eventually calm herself--because you're home, and all's right in her world. THEN you can call her to you and have all the loving and affection you want.

See the difference?

Eventually, you won't need to wait for her to release all that pent-up energy, because she won't pen it up.

Hope that helps.

I wonder if you can buy a metal crate pan liner? I think for now she still need to be in some kind of crate, for her own safety.
See less See more
Ok, I'm assuming I can get the $41.99 matt and not have to pay hundreds of dollars!

We have the 2nd ball toy. For a while she loved it but now she takes the brown treat out and doesn't pay it any attention. Once in awhile she'll play w/the ball. I guess I will try the one you use.

Ok, yes, thank you for reminding me about the love rewards. My brain is a bit fried today and I'm not thinking straight but yes, now I remember.

Dave: I've thought of a dog walker ... might have to do more than think about it. I have put that off because in my head I relate walking the dog to bonding w/the dog and having her think of me as the boss. I just don't know that it's right to have someone else walk her on a regular basis. But maybe since she's so tied to me in this case it's not a bad idea to have her get used to someone else and some time away from me.
See less See more
Luca_stl said:

See the difference?

Eventually, you won't need to wait for her to release all that pent-up energy, because she won't pen it up.

Hope that helps.

I wonder if you can buy a metal crate pan liner? I think for now she still need to be in some kind of crate, for her own safety.
Yes, I do see the difference, thanks
This will probably be harder on ME than her, LOL!

I agree, I do NOT like leaving her out of the crate. But since in her case it's dangerous either way that's my dilemma.

Ok, what about this idea ... what if I put say a pillow that I've slept on in the crate w/her? She then can smell me even though I'm not there. Anyone think this is a good idea? Bad idea? Asking for more trouble? A steel matt sure doesn't seem to comfy. I'm not trying to make her uncomfortable, I'd love for her to go back to being comfy in her crate. But at the price of dog beds I'm not about to keep replacing them because she chews them up. I could put an old blanket in there - except there was one in there and she shredded that up, too.

JKlatsky: Because she's perfectly happy to lay by my feet all day long, sleep in the room w/me, that's she's fine when there's another dog here - whatever - it's because she only does this when she's left alone that I feel this is separation anxiety. She just does not do well alone.
See less See more
I agree that this sounds like separation anxiety. I don't think that giving her a pillow will help--she can still smell your scent on everything else in the house, even in an empty crate. My guess is she'd just shred the pillow.

Right now, the crate is about safety, not comfort. If she needs to be in there on a plain pan liner, then so be it. I wouldn't feel too bad. Most of the time when I've tried to give a dog a blanket in the crate they end up kicking it into a ball and laying on the cool plastic liner instead! LOL My dogs would rather lay on a cool tile floor than the carpet even when they are out of the crate.
Sarge has a crate and we put him in there on occasion. The other day he went into the bathroom and got a wash cloth. He took it to his kennel and put it in the corner. I told my wife to leave it in there and see what he does with it.

Its been in there for a few weeks and he doesnt chew it or do anything with it near as I can tell. Maybe instead of something as big as a pillow you could try something smaller. I think the cent thing could help the situation some. It would be worth a try.

If it doesnt your no worse off.
It sounds to me like your dog needs more exercise. 45 minutes three times a week isn't nearly enough. If it is not possible for you to take her on a daily walk you should hire a dog walker.
Well, I think (HOPE!) we've found an answer to this. I just got back from a bicycle-fixer-upper guy who also sells used bikes. He's a retired old gent who takes in bikes, fixes them and donates most to charity. He had a 26" almost new but used 21 speed girls bike that fits me really well so I bought it. I have no clue what I'll do w/21 gears but he only had one other one that didn't fit me to well, very uncomfortable.

I just took Nissa on a test run and she's a natural! We went around the block 2X and she did amazingly well I thought, I was giggling w/happiness she did so good. I was a little worried about her getting to close and she did once but not dangerously so, and I just held out my hand (she was on a 12ft leash rather than our usual 2ft leash) to bring her farther out and she caught on immediately.

I on the other hand haven't been on a bike in probably 40 years! So, we're going to have to take it a bit slow until I am more coordinated and hubby has to show me how to shift gears when he gets back into town because I never had a bike w/gears before. I'm used to braking w/the pedals but you do it w/hand brakes now so this is all new to me.

Now I just have to get good enough w/one dog so that when Riley comes back I can handle two. I can't believe how excited I am! Not to mention MAYBE I'll even lose some weight in the deal!

Thank you all for your help!
See less See more
Hey! great idea. Now you both get some exercise. Now you just have to talk a neighbor into taking pictures of this. We need to see it! LOL.
Uhhhhhhhhhhh, no. LOL! it's bad enough for me to be on a bike, let alone be captured for all posterity with a camera! I'm 54 years old for cryin' out loud, LOL!
If you're going to continue biking, you might want to get a bike attachment to hook Nissa to so that you have both hands free.

WDJ recommends "Kong Time" for seperation anxiety.

BTW be careful running your girl in hot weather. Asphalt on even a short bike ride can badly blister the pads of their feet. (I tried it in Oregon once....) If it's hotter than that you can get heat stroke in the dog too. So - be careful!
Rafi had severe separation anxiety when I adopted him and I followed Patricia McConnell's protocol for counter-conditioning. You can find it in a very short little book called, "I'll Be Home Soon." He's still anxious without me but not destructive.

I really think she needs way more exercise. What about doggie day care a couple of days a week in addition to a dog walker? It helps a lot for the higher strung dogs to be really tired and that usually means a minimum of 2 hours of exercise a day. Buying a flinger and throwing a ball is one way to do that. Doing inside training (like clicker training) is another way. Things that get her to use her brain and physically work are the best.
Originally Posted By: RebelGSD The plastic crates they escape easily as the door flexes an all they need to do is bend the two wires that fit into the holes in the plastic sufficiently to pop the door open.
My first female GSD was a "door bender". She would grab the door and pull it in and bend it, then she was OUT. Luckily she didn't NEED to be crated. (And after ruining the door, she wan't.)
I did get a WalkyDog for the bike, you're right two hands are better than one on the bike and one on the leash. Hubby's got to do some inventive thinking. My bike seat has to be all the way down because I'm short so the WalkyDog has to be in a lower position which we have to check to make sure is still tall enough for the dogs.

Things have improved with an additional walk a day. One in the morn, one before I go to work. I've also stopped encouraging her dramatics when I get home. I come in, I don't say a word, we go directly to the door and let her out. When she comes in she's still a little wired, but I don't say anything or do anything w/her until she sits her but down and is quiet - which is happening real quick now, LOL! In just two days her dramatics have moved from high end to low end.
See less See more
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.